Although desktop components typically are one generation ahead of notebook hardware from a performance standpoint, it is reasonable to say that notebooks offer more than enough power for everyday tasks. There are dual core processors by AMD and Intel, there is plenty of RAM, and ATI and Nvidia offer powerful mobile graphics solutions. However, one component has always been a performance bottleneck in notebooks: 2.5" hard drives cannot provide the same data transfer rates of their 3.5" desktop brothers, which is why maximizing notebook hard drive performance is critical for a smooth performance experience.
We compared three new 2.5" 160 GB notebook hard drives by Fujitsu, Seagate and Toshiba. Seagate's new hard drive is especially interesting, as it is the second generation Momentus running at a fast 7,200 RPM. Most notebook hard drives still operate at relatively slow, but energy-saving 4,200 RPM. More notebooks for the upper mainstream are being equipped with 5,400 RPM drives, which provide more performance while maintaining acceptable energy consumption levels (please check the benchmark section for details). The rotation speed is the most important factor for high hard drive performance, so 7,200 RPM notebook drives can be considered top products. Although you cannot use the highest data densities at maximum rotation speeds, both the data transfer rate and average access times benefit a lot from faster rotation.
Seagate has yet another differentiator: it is the only hard drive manufacturer to offer a warranty of five years for its retail products which we believe really helps to build trust (though OEM products may have shorter warranties). While a broken hard drive is the worst thing that can happen to you and your data, and every hard drive can fail when you least expect it, a long warranty period carries the message that the manufacturer trusts its products, so you should be able to trust them as well.
A 7,200 RPM hard drive isn't always the best choice, as it does require more energy than drives running at 5,400 or 4,200 RPM, and battery life is very important in notebooks. Although the new Momentus 7200.2 already requires more than 30% less energy when running idle, many 5,400 RPM drives, especially Fujitsu's new 160 GB model, are another 30% below that.
Enough tech talk, let's get to the contenders!